Instructor:         Dr. Robert Smith,                                             Office Phone: 962-4076          

Office:              Education Building 376                                     Home Phone: 256-1860

Website: http://people.uncw.edu/smithrw/                                  Email: Smithrw@uncw.edu


Course Description

This course examines the organizational structure of high schools. An historical approach will analyze the early development of high schools to identify factors pertinent to the current organizational structure. We will discuss changes in curriculum and instruction and their effects on teaching and learning as well as the role of school leadership at the high school level. We will investigate models of high school reform as well as current issues at the secondary level. Finally, the course will provide opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills that teachers need in order to be effective teacher leaders. The course supports the WSE conceptual framework:  the development of  highly competent professionals to serve in educational leadership roles.

Required Texts

Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School. Theodore Sizer, (1992). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Standards of Mind and Heart. Creating the Good High School. Peggy Silva, Robert Mackin, (2002). New York: Teachers College Press.

For MEd Students:

Breaking Ranks II: Strategies for Leading High School Reform. National Association of Secondary School Principals (2004). Reston VA.


A collection of readings is available on electronic reserve (Go to the Library website, to the left of the page, click on “Course Reserves” and type in EDN 528;  Click on 528). Other journal articles related to course goals, excerpts from books and other sources of professional interest  may be added as assignments are made throughout the course.

Course Goals and General Objectives

  1. To critically analyze social/political influences on high school structure, function and change.
  2. To examine the influence of organizational structure, curriculum and instruction on teaching and learning at the high school level.
  3. To analyze exemplary models of high school reform and critical issues in secondary education.
  4. To demonstrate knowledge and skills required of effective teacher leaders.

Attendance and Assignments Policies:

Regular class attendance and participation is required. If you are unable to attend a class, inform the professor ahead of time. More than one unexcused absence is considered excessive and may result in the final grade being reduced by one letter grade. Assignments are due on the date specified in the syllabus. Points may be deducted for assignments handed in late. Specific instructions for assignments will be given in class.

There are two online classes. If online assignments are not completed, students will be counted absent for that class.

Course Assignments:

1. Teaching and Learning Experiences (15 points).

In order that this course can be of most benefit to you, describe as fully as you are able to your previous experiences related to teaching and learning at the high school level.

  • Describe your experience of high school as a learner. Did you enjoy school, what did you learn, what did you like about school, what did you dislike about school, how did your experiences of high school compare to that of elementary and middle and what would you change?
  • Describe any experiences of teaching, particularly high school students. What do you enjoy about teaching, what are the challenges in teaching, what would you change?
  • Describe any experiences of working in a high school. What aspects of the environment support teaching and learning, what aspects should be changed?
  • Describe how the factors of race, class and gender have figured in your experience as a student and as a teacher.
  • As you reflect on these experiences, write down any central or critical questions related to teaching and learning.
  • On a separate piece of paper, outline your own Professional Development Plan – describe your goals or what you hope to get out of the course.

2.   Book Response (15 points each): You are to write a response paper to Sizer’s Horace’s Compromise and to Silva’s Standards of Mind and Heart The book response should take the following format:

·        Present the author’s argument – this may take about a page

·        Provide your response to the author’s argument. Your response should be reasoned and include both strengths and limitations. You can respond based on your own experience or through analysis of the reasoning in the author’s argument. However, having an experience different from that described by the author is insufficient evidence alone to refute an argument.

Where appropriate, include specific quotations (3 pages). The Response to Silva is due before the discussion of the last section of the book. That is intentional and not a mistake.

3.   Article Response and Discussion Leader (15 points):  In pairs, students will select one article/reading and write a response to it. The response paper, one paper per pair, should be submitted the class period that the article or book section is to be discussed (2 pages). You will also lead a discussion on the topic. (10 points paper, 5 discussion)

4.   Electronic Discussion (5 points each): Post your response on Seaport to the readings 2 Sizer and 3 Silva and 1 Charter/Magnet.  

Access Seaport: Go to UNCW homepage, Click on Students, Seaport, Enter UNCW email plus password that you use to log on to UNCW;  My Courses, EDN 528, Message Board - you're there.  Post your message under the appropriate topic.

5.   School Project: Two Options:

A)    For those seeking licensure: School Report and School Improvement Project

Students will be assigned to a high school partnership teacher in their discipline. The two main goals are familiarization with a high school classroom and familiarization with the goals of a high school and how high schools operate. This will entail approximately 20-30 hours, with 10 hours spent in the classroom and the remainder spent on the school improvement project.

School Improvement Project (45 points)

Students will work in pairs to complete the School Improvement Project. Students will present their projects (approximately 10 minutes) to the class.


·        select one of the goals from the school’s improvement plan. Describe the goal and the procedures for implementation. (In working with a partner, students may choose a goal which is common to both school improvement plans. Each student would examine and describe how the goal is being implemented at their particular school.)

·        research the topic to see if there are any studies to support the strategies being implemented

·        where possible, include any outcomes from the school’s implementation of the goal eg changes in EOC’s

·        include interviews with teachers or administrators relating to the goal and the strategies implemented

·        include any recommendations



Note:  1) The focus of the project is on your learning about high schools and getting comfortable and knowledgeable about how high schools work. It is an in-the-field assignment not a library review of the literature.

2) This is a significant assignment. If it is apparent that the School Improvement Plan at your school, is not a meaningful plan for investigation – i.e. it is not taken seriously at your school – then talk with me.


School Report (25 points): Students will observe, assist, and teach 3 lessons.  Successful completion of the field experience, including teaching three times, is a requirement to pass the course.

  For your School Report, include:

1.      Background information on the school e.g. number of students, student characteristics, school philosophy etc. While, the School Report card can be attached, I am most interested in your selection and response to the data (5).

2.      A list of dates and times when you attended the school including a brief summary of your activities for each day. Make sure the three teaching times are clearly identified (5).

3.      Provide a written statement of what you learned about 1) yourself in relation to teaching 2) the high school environment (15).

B)    For those licensed:

Change Initiative and Research Paper

Change Initiative (15 points)

Identify a change initiative that you believe will improve teaching and learning. The level of implementation could be whole school, or department. However, the focus needs to be broader than your own individual classroom.

1.      Provide support (articles, research) for your initiative.

2.      Describe why this idea is of value, what steps you would need to implement it and what resistance you might meet (2 pages).

Research Paper (45 points). The primary purpose of the research paper is to provide you with an opportunity to explore an educational topic of significance.

There are many issues and questions of general professional interest that may be pursued in this paper. You may also have legitimate educational questions that do not fit comfortably within a research paper format. Questions of school discipline or prayer in schools fit into the latter category and are best pursued in some other fashion than this research paper. It is important that you talk with me about your research question prior to beginning. (Approximate length, 10 pages)

A review of the literature is an essential part of any research paper. In addition, consider how you might provide additional insights by conducting your own “research” eg. by observing at a specific school, interviewing  teachers, or students.

Make connections between your topic and the strategies/ models on (high) school reform that we have discussed. For example, how does your topic connect with the recommendations for high school reform described in Breaking Ranks II?

(The format outlined below is a guide only)

1.      Introduction. Tell the reader (in a paragraph) what it is you intend to undertake in the paper. Your next task is to describe the issue, problem or question that you intend to investigate. This description should be brief (i.e., to the point) and complete (so that your audience knows how to view the issue). You should also describe why the issue is of professional interest and what factors limit easy identification of a solution. This part of the paper will involve a review of literature and description of the situation. Finally, give your best judgment about the significance of the problem.

2.      Your second task is methodological: to find information and data to address your research question. For example, if you do a literature review, describe your search strategy (e.g., what key words from ERIC did you use, how many sources were found, how many were used, what criteria did you use for selecting sources to use, etc.). If you gather interview or survey data describe how you selected informants, how they were contacted and how data was collected; describe the instruments you used or developed to gather data.

3.      Once you have collected information you need to present your findings in an organized fashion. It is generally desirable to summarize your findings and then have a longer prose section describing in detail what was presented. A table or chart may be a useful way to summarize your findings.

4.      Your fourth task is a section called discussion or implications in which you describe how the information collected addresses your research question. An important part of the discussion section is to describe the PEI analytic framework and apply it along with your information and data to the problem. In this section you may wish to make evaluative judgments about existing school practices or suggest strategies for educational reform or transformation.

5.      The last section is References in which you include the full citation of any works referred to in your paper.

 6. Reflective Paper (15 points).

This paper should address the following issues (Approx. 3 pages). Use section headings in writing the paper.

  • Identify the questions you have asked and what you have learned in relation to those questions. Briefly explain why these things are important. You may also want to refer back to the goals and issues you identified in your Professional Development Plan.
  • Explain how your thinking about education and high schools has changed over the course of the semester. (Present evidence of these changes as revealed through papers and class discussions etc.)
  • Indicate the classroom activities from this class that were most useful to you in meeting your personal interests and expectations, and indicate things you may have learned through these experiences that were unexpected. Explain why/how these activities were useful (e.g., how do they match your preferred learning style; how did an activity contribute to a sense of interest, ownership and commitment). In addition, make suggestions (these may be additions or substitutions) of instructional activities that may be more useful for you than those adopted this semester.

7.      MEd Leadership (10 points):

MEd students are expected to provide leadership – one of the goals of the MEd program. Students will read and respond to Recommendations for High School Reform, Breaking Ranks II (this will involve posting a response on Seaport, and classroom discussion of the recommendations.) In addition, students should make connections between Breaking Ranks II and other readings and assignments you complete.  



The final course grade will be based on the percent of the total points accrued out of 175.

1. Teaching and Learning Experiences Paper


2. Book Response (Sizer & Silva) 2x15


3. Article Response (10) & Discussion Leader (5)


4. On-line Discussion 6 x 5


5. Change Initiative (15) MEd Leadership (10)


6. School Report


6. Research Paper /School Improvement Report


7. Reflective Paper






Grades: 175-161 A; 160-148 B; 147-136 C; 131-118 D

Course Content:

The final course schedule will be decided with student input.

Relevant Library Books